The number of people who work from home is on the rise in a number of countries around the world. However, whilst remote working might seem appealing to many of us, there are aspects of it that make some people hope they’ll never have to do it. In reality, like anything, remote work has its good and bad points.
What is remote working?
Remote working is the practice of completing your normal daily working life away from the office, using some form of technology and an internet connection. Commonly, this means working from home, often with a laptop employed to remotely connect to key systems, which may be in the office or hosted in the cloud. Remote working is not typically limited by location. Assuming the user has access to technology and an internet connection, they could remotely work from anywhere; a partner’s office, for example, or a roadside service station whilst away from the office on another job.
Let’s start with the down sides:
1. Lack of routine.
Not all remote work is the same; some people do have to follow a schedule and check in with their employer at key times. For those in results-based areas like freelancing though, there are no rules about when, for example, you have to get out of bed. There probably aren’t meetings to go to either, and if there are, these kinds of home workers can often dial in to participate if they want. It may sound like a dream, but some remote workers can struggle with the lack of a schedule, finding it difficult to feel motivated or work efficiently.
2. No workplace social life.
Even if you’re interacting with clients or co-workers virtually, it’s not the same as banter in the office or getting lunch together. Remote workers often report feeling a little isolated. This is why many of them prefer to come into the office at least a few days a week, or possibly do their work in public places like coffee shops.
3. The challenge of the work/life balance.
You would think that remote working would make it easier to devote time to your personal life. However, when you don’t have specific hours or a clear separation of workplace and home space, it can be hard to “switch off” and stop thinking about work you have to do, or stop constantly checking your phone or inbox.
Then again, while some struggle with “switching off” from work, others have trouble switching on. Working at home means all the distractions of your personal life, good and bad. If you have small children around, they may demand your attention. Or the TV may just beg you to watch it for an hour or two. Without the filters that many workplaces put up, remote workers have constant access to time-wasting websites, personal emails and social networks – which can be deadly for productivity.
5. Complete dependence on technology.
Since you’re not face-to-face with colleagues or clients when you’re a remote worker, you have to make sure you’re easily reachable by email, phone and other platforms your office or external contacts may use (Skype for Business, Dropbox, etc.). Luckily, there are a lot of solutions to help you communicate and transfer data quickly. A 4G network, for example, offers incredible speed, security and image definition.
Remote work isn’t all bad, of course. If it were, remote working wouldn’t be as popular as it’s becoming among workers and employers alike. Here are some advantages of remote working to keep in mind:
Whilst the lack of routine was listed as a “Disadvantage” because some people struggle to get motivated, others in fact thrive on it. For example, with a flexible work schedule, parents are able take their kids to and from school, which relieves reliance on child care. In addition to this there are people who just perform more efficiently when they’re in charge of their own schedule.
2. Less costly.
Working at home part or full- time means less or no commuting, which means less money spent on transport costs. Many remote workers will also make their lunch and coffee at home. Another way remote workers save money is on their wardrobe! After all, unless you do video conferencing, no one says you can’t wear informal clothes all day – no need for a work wardrobe.
3. Work at your own pace.
Most people working remotely can choose how and when to work on projects, as long as they deliver them in by the deadline. They can take breaks, or push through and complete a task all in one go. While self-discipline is a must when it comes to working from home, several studies have shown that at-home workers tend to be more productive than their on-site counterparts.
4. Less sick days.
How many times have you decided not to go to the office because you’ve got a bad cold or a sore throat? When you’re at home, you can take care of yourself and still get work done. Researchers have found that remote workers are off ill less frequently than on-site workers.
5. Technological advances make so much possible.
Working in an office means that you can hand in reports and communicate with colleagues without any delays. Nowadays though, the huge choice of ways to stay connected by phone and internet ensure that speed isn’t an issue, even if you’re working remotely. 4G networks are available in many countries, and coverage areas are increasing every day. In addition to making it possible to upload and send data four times faster than with 3G, 4G allows for easy transfer of higher definition videos and images. If security is an issue, 4G is also the best option for keeping documents and other information safe. Software can also help. Solutions such as Microsoft Office 365 mean that you can collaborate with colleagues on documents in real time, even if one of you is in the office and the other at home.
Though there are disadvantages, remote working is almost universally accepted as a good thing for almost all businesses. However, businesses who wish to implement remote working should be aware that it requires work in and of itself, some time investment in setup, systems and procedures. Like anything else in IT, you should revisit your remote working practices and update them often, ideally with the full input of your team.
If you would like a straight forward conversation about remote working for your business, feel free to get in touch or simply fill out the contact form below to arrange a call back from one of our consultants.